Letter: Sevierville’s action hurts locals while easing burden on tourists

Jun. 09, 2013 @ 11:02 PM

Editor:

State Rep. Dale Carr proposed and was able to get legislation passed that gives Sevierville the same status as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg — a premiere resort classification. I commend Rep. Carr for getting that done.

It was asinine that Sevierville could not enjoy the same benefits or make decisions equal to that of its sister cities. Changing the law now allows the city to implement certain taxes at the same rate and with the same obligations as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Regrettably, Sevierville took advantage of the new law for this year’s fiscal budget. On Monday, June 3, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed a 2 percent increase on restaurants and entertainment, while simultaneously reducing taxes on lodging. While the state law surrounding the premiere resort designation requires these cities to dedicate 75 percent of an increase to advertising, Sevierville will be dedicating 89 percent of the increase to that purpose. This seems to me the real reason for the tax increase, not the original stated purpose of improving its infrastructure.

After the meeting was adjourned, I learned from a discussion that we now rank fifth in the nation for having the highest tax rate on restaurants and entertainment. The leading four are resort cities in Arizona.

In my estimation, raising these taxes while lowering lodging taxes puts more of the burden on locals who choose to eat out, while easing the burden on tourists who choose to lodge here.

Granted, making a budget for a city is a monumental task. It’s a task few of us are willing to participate in. But with respect toward the city’s BOMA, with the current state of the economy and seeing no clear evidence that it’s about to legitimately improve, now is not the time to raise any tax.

It’s a done deal. We are going to have to deal with it. But don’t forget what just happened.

Steve Osborn

Chairman

Sevier County Tea Party